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      Superiority, competition, and opportunism in the evolutionary radiation of dinosaurs.

      Science (New York, N.Y.)

      Adaptation, Biological, Animals, Biological Evolution, Dinosaurs, anatomy & histology, classification, Extinction, Biological, Paleontology, Phylogeny

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          Abstract

          The rise and diversification of the dinosaurs in the Late Triassic, from 230 to 200 million years ago, is a classic example of an evolutionary radiation with supposed competitive replacement. A comparison of evolutionary rates and morphological disparity of basal dinosaurs and their chief "competitors," the crurotarsan archosaurs, shows that dinosaurs exhibited lower disparity and an indistinguishable rate of character evolution. The radiation of Triassic archosaurs as a whole is characterized by declining evolutionary rates and increasing disparity, suggesting a decoupling of character evolution from body plan variety. The results strongly suggest that historical contingency, rather than prolonged competition or general "superiority," was the primary factor in the rise of dinosaurs.

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          Most cited references 15

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          The evolution of dinosaurs.

          The ascendancy of dinosaurs on land near the close of the Triassic now appears to have been as accidental and opportunistic as their demise and replacement by therian mammals at the end of the Cretaceous. The dinosaurian radiation, launched by 1-meter-long bipeds, was slower in tempo and more restricted in adaptive scope than that of therian mammals. A notable exception was the evolution of birds from small-bodied predatory dinosaurs, which involved a dramatic decrease in body size. Recurring phylogenetic trends among dinosaurs include, to the contrary, increase in body size. There is no evidence for co-evolution between predators and prey or between herbivores and flowering plants. As the major land masses drifted apart, dinosaurian biogeography was molded more by regional extinction and intercontinental dispersal than by the breakup sequence of Pangaea.
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            Background and mass extinctions: the alternation of macroevolutionary regimes.

             D Jablonski (1986)
            Comparison of evolutionary patterns among Late Cretaceous marine bivalves and gastropods during times of normal, background levels of extinction and during the end-Cretaceous mass extinction indicates that mass extinctions are neither an intensification of background patterns nor an entirely random culling of the biota. During background times, traits such as planktotrophic larval development, broad geographic range of constituent species, and high species richness enhanced survivorship of species and genera. In contrast, during the, end-Cretaceous and other mass extinctions these factors were ineffectual, but broad geographic deployment of an entire lineage, regardless of the ranges of its constituent species, enhanced survivorship. Large-scale evolutionary patterns are evidently shaped by the alternation of these two macroevolutionary regimes, with rare but important mass extinctions driving shifts in the composition of the biota that have little relation to success during the background regime. Lineages or adaptations can be lost during mass extinctions for reasons unrelated to their survival values for organisms or species during background times, and long-term success would require the chance occurrence within a single lineage of sets of traits conducive to survivorship under both regimes.
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              Fossil Plants and Global Warming at the Triassic-Jurassic Boundary.

              The Triassic-Jurassic boundary marks a major faunal mass extinction, but records of accompanying environmental changes are limited. Paleobotanical evidence indicates a fourfold increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and suggests an associated 3 degrees to 4 degrees C "greenhouse" warming across the boundary. These environmental conditions are calculated to have raised leaf temperatures above a highly conserved lethal limit, perhaps contributing to the >95 percent species-level turnover of Triassic-Jurassic megaflora.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                18787166
                10.1126/science.1161833

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